Cycling can significantly benefit running by providing a low-impact form of cross-training that allows for more frequent training, improves cardiovascular performance, supports recovery, and aids in rehabilitation from injuries, thereby enhancing overall fitness and complementing the primary muscles used in running. Read on to learn more.


Many of us are not only interested in just cycling. We are a fan of other types of cardiovascular sports, such as running. It is known that some runners use cycling as a tool to improve their running, and this is known as cross-training. Will your cycling actually benefit you when it comes to your running though? In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know.

I want to start by saying I am a huge fan of running and believe alongside cycling, that it is a fantastic sport to get into with a great community around it. It’s cheap to start and can aid you in hitting many fitness goals.

It is a high impact sport, so you need to make sure you listen to your body and give yourself plenty of recovery time. As far as using cycling as cross-training for running goes, it hugely benefits running, and here’s why.


You can train more

When it comes to running, it is a high impact sport. We are pushing those legs hard and pounding those feet onto the pavement. It’s not always easy on the body. It can take a lot of recovery to keep getting you back to top form. This isn’t the same with cycling. Cycling is a very low-impact sport that uses many of the same muscles.

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We can train more because in the time we’re aching from running and requiring recovery, we can jump on the bike and still work out. It means we can fit much more training in, and also, light exercise on the bike can aid the recovery of your running too.

You can train complementary muscles

Running and cycling, although they both use the majority of the same muscles to complete each motion, we do train specific muscles harder than others in each sport. There are a few muscles we don’t use in running that we can benefit from, which we get from cycling. So by training on the bike, we can help support the primary muscles for running.

The muscles used in running are primarily:

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Iliopsoas
  • Calves

Then the muscles we use when cycling are:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Soleus
  • Gastrocnemius

You can improve cardiovascular performance

Muscles aside, let’s speak about the engine that powers them, the cardiovascular engine. This is your body’s ability to elevate the heart rate and to power itself along by pumping blood around the system. When we speak about the cardiovascular engine, we talk about how the body maintains itself while exercising.

As your heart rate elevates and you take air into your lungs, the body takes the oxygen and other nutrients to the muscles powering them to push you forward. Then, in turn, it removes the waste products such as carbon dioxide and takes it back to your lungs to be pushed out.

We make the cardiovascular system more efficient by training it regularly. The more frequently we do this, the better it will adapt, providing it has adequate rest.

So when we can train this system more regularly by doing other sports that use the cardiovascular system, the better our performance will improve over time.

Supports Recovery

Running as a sport does require a lot of recovery, it is hard on the body, and we need to give it time to recover. We can speed up this recovery process in a few ways. Firstly getting lots of protein, strength and conditioning, and also doing light recovery workouts.

One thing that does aid muscles in recovery is getting them some fresh blood circulating and keeping the muscles moving. This is what we call active recovery.

Cycling is a fantastic way to get an active recovery. It can be done at such a low intensity that it can send fresh blood around without stressing the muscles too much. Many runners use cycling to recover actively in between their heavy running training sessions. 

Can help rehabilitation from injury

When running, it is common to get injuries and sometimes these can take time to recover from these. Cycling, although it uses similar muscles, can be another form of exercise you might be able to do instead of running.

It also is a lot lower impact and is ideal for rehabilitation. It can stop you from going in too strong too early. Many people later in life turn to cycling instead of running if injuries get too regular.


Cycling can hugely benefit running. Although they seem like completely different sports, they do share the same basic fundamentals. They both train the cardiovascular system and use a similar set of muscles.

The same goes for running for cycling. Not only will your running benefit from cycling, but your cycling will benefit from doing running also.

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